The changing "nerd culture" and TITANS Part II: DC and Marvel

by Charles Gerian

Where was I? Oh yeah. The early 2000's and the changing face of the “super-hero”.

THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN were colossal hits that beautiful summer with the former raking in $585 million (a paltry sum now, compared to more recent Marvel fair) and the latter breaking the $1 billion dollar mark after it took the world by storm. Marvel, of course, got a bit of a quick start as the next “Marvel Cinematic Universe” i.e. “Avengers” installment was due out just a month later with THE INCREDIBLE HULK pulling in $262 million which...isn't that impressive, even by 2008 standards.

Where is this going, though? Well. Marvel had what worked for them: teasing a larger universe with the promise of a team-up film and offering a relatively light viewing experience for the sake of playing to a large audience with laughs, thrills, and action. Warner Brothers/DC had what worked for them: dark, depressing, crime-dramas that just so happen to have superheros in them. Moving forward in time as Marvel's palate continued to expand on the horizon with films for characters like Thor, Captain America, and another Iron Man movie expected between 2008 and 2011; DC was having a rough go. Their planned Justice League film titled JUSTICE LEAGUE: MORTAL floundered in development Hell and Superman was essentially incapable of being brought back from his cinematic grave of boredom. Green Lantern, it seemed, was their next mainline ticket to success in 2011...which failed horrifically.

GREEN LANTERN tried too hard to be a “Marvel movie”. It was quippy and fun, but in ways that were jarring, out-dated, and tonally inconsistent to the rest of the film's content. So what now? How could DC/WB catch up to the powerhouse that was the Marvel Universe which, in 2012, had released THE AVENGERS that grossed $1.5 billion dollars coming out just a few months before THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, the end of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Hope was seemingly found in the hyper-stylistic director Zack Snyder who had helmed the 2009 adaptation of Alan Moore's WATCHMEN which was a subversive, dark, and violent take on superheroes before the genre had even found it's real footing. The “Anti-Avengers” before The Avengers were even a thing. Snyder was tasked with bringing Superman into the modern age and rejuvenating the DC Universe on film. Think “Batman Begins with Superman”.

MAN OF STEEL released in Summer 2013 and was an emotionally captivating drama chronicling the origin story of Superman, laden with heavy religious symbolism and very bold, mature, ideas and concepts. The dye was cast, however, when the City of Metropolis was laid to waste in the climactic battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) which ended with Superman tearfully snapping Zod's neck to end his reign of terror. The internet fanboys, already indoctrinated to the squeaky clean, no-stakes, fun of Marvel, took to Twitter with their hashtag pitchforks to denounce this “dark and gritty” Superman as joyless and lacking “fun”.

Despite this though, MAN OF STEEL soared with $668 million dollars by the end of it's run and WB got hard at work on a that would jump-start their own cinematic universe and pave the way for a new and improved JUSTICE LEAGUE film. In 2016, three years and several hundred Marvel movies later, WB/DC released Zack Snyder's BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and David Ayer's SUICIDE SQUAD...and if you thought nerds hated MAN OF STEEL you better sit down, because the critical reaction to BvS was grizzly. Despite earning $873 million and becoming a cult-hit seemingly over night, Disney's mark on Hollywood and indoctrination to moviegoers and nerds was too deep to ignore.

BvS doubled down on the drama, politics, religious metaphors, and brooding pseudo-philosophy of it's predecessor and it seems no one was too keen on watching superheros like Batman and Superman struggle with psychological and philosophical ideologies for three hours when they just, months prior, saw Captain America, Iron Man, and a platter of multi-colored spandex idiots slapping each-other in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. SUICIDE SQUAD was a similar scenario, but general audiences seemed to love that film's off-brand humor, eccentric cast, and snappy chemistry while still maintaining the dark aesthetic WB/DC were trying to make themselves known for.

That's okay though, because WB and Zack Snyder were already in the process of filming JUSTICE LEAGE due out the following year along with WONDER WOMAN, a stand-alone prequel for the Amazon hero who appeared in BvS. Surely, you think, JUSTICE LEAGUE was a hit and we're finally getting somewhere? Right?

Tune in next week.